On September 22, the RA Criminal Court of Appeal declined the appeal by “Hraparak” daily and iLur.am against June 26, 2014 ruling of the court of general jurisdiction which required these media outlets to disclose the source of information, and thus, created a precedent that jeopardizes the freedom of speech.
As we have reported, on July 9 “Hraparak” and iLur.am challenged the decision of the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash Administrative Districts of Yerevan that requires the media to disclose the source of information on the incident between the chief of Shirak region police Vardan Nadarian and two brothers – Artur and Rafael Aleksanians.
On May 9, 2014, “Hraparak” and iLur.am published anonymous information about a dispute that took place on one of the streets of Gyumri, in the evening of May 7, between the regional police chief, colonel Vardan Nadarian and two brothers – Artur and Rafael Aleksanians – first being a world-renowned athlete, multiple champion of Europe and Olympic bronze medalist in wrestling. According to that information, the head of Shirak police did not like that the car in which the brothers were driving had too bright headlights. Vardan Nadarian got out of his car and started to hit the brothers with the pistol grip, causing them injuries.
The court ruling obliging the media to disclose the source of information was regarded by local and international experts as a dangerous precedent jeopardizing the freedom of speech (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 1-8, 2014).
Nevertheless, in the final hearing on September 22, the Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the court of general jurisdiction, thereby causing a new barrage of criticism.
Chairman of the Armenian Helsinki Committee Avetik Ishkhanian in his interview to Aravot.am assessed the ruling of the Court of Appeal as unlawful. “The media can keep the confidentiality of their sources of information if it is not a threat to national security, which, in turn, needs to be proven in the court”, said Avetik Ishkhanian, stressing that the information about the Gyumri incident “in no way is a threat to national security”. In his view, this is an attempt to intimidate the media so that they write more carefully and refuse to publish sensitive information.
Board Chairman of “Asparez” Journalists’ Club of Gyumri, Levon Barseghian, in his interview to Aravot.am also commented on the ruling of the Criminal Court of Appeal, calling it “a step to cover the inaction of the police and the Prosecutor’s Office”. The latter claim that they cannot solve the case as the media refuses to provide information, Levon Barseghian believes. “They could have just track down the phone calls of the police chief and Artur Aleksanian to find out how many people the Shirak police chief called after the incident to contact Artur and settle the issue with him; that would be enough to solve the case”, said the head of “Asparez”. He further added that the law enforcement bodies are trying to lay the blame for the unsolved case on the media which refuse to give out their sources of information.